Recent headline stories about a "fabulous" trade deal with "Communist" China and its apparent incubation of a killer virus, reminded me of something I wrote several years ago and bears repeating because it's about American POWs in China, Russia, Vietnam and other places throughout the world.
For the last sixty-seven years, since the Korean War armistice in 1953, the Chinese Communists have adamantly asserted that at the conclusion of the fighting no open POW/MIA issues remained. According to the Chinese, no American prisoners were transported to China, either to remain there or to be transshipped elsewhere, principally to the Soviet Union. China held no American POW/MIAs, nor knew anything about other countries that might have been holding them. So said the Chinese, now our mega trading partners.
Many in and out of our government knew, and still know, that the Chicoms were lying, not least because of the worldwide Communists’ history in dealing with enemy captives. (For an extensive article on this subject, see www.henrymarkholzer.com, articles, miscellaneous, “Archangel 1918 to Hanoi 1972.”)
During the Twentieth Century, the United States overtly fought international communism three times, on battlefields from the frozen wastes of Siberia, to the harsh mountains of Korea, to the steaming jungles of Vietnam—and after those conflicts we never recovered thousands of American POWs and MIAs.
We fought communists covertly during World War II when they were our allies, and later in the “Cold War” when they were not—and then, too, the United States suffered the loss of countless POWs and MIAs.
As infamous as were these losses of American military personnel, the most despicable abuse of POW/MIAs was the Communists’ horrific treatment of our men during the Korean War, followed by the unrepatriation by the Chinese of thousands of POW/MIAs after the armistice. (See www.henrymarkholzer.com, cited above.)
According to a government report, “[o]n June 17, 1955, almost two years after the end of operation “Big Switch,” (repatriation of non-wounded POWs), the Office of the Secretary of Defense, issued an internal report titled, “Recovery of Unrepatriated Prisoners of War.” The report admitted that:
After the official repatriation efforts were completed, the U.N. Command found that it still had slightly less than 1000 U.S. P[O]Ws (not MIAs!) “unaccounted for” by the Communists.
At the time of the official repatriation, some of our [returnees] stated they had been informed by the Communists that they (the Communists) were holding “some” U.S. flyers as “political prisoners” rather than as prisoners of war and that these people would have to be “negotiated for” through political or diplomatic channels. Due to the fact that we did not recognize the red regime in China, no political or diplomatic negotiations were instituted, although [the] State [Department] did have some exploratory discussions with the British in an attempt to get at the problem.
The situation was relatively dormant when, in late November 1954, the Peking radio announced that 13 of these “political prisoners” had been sentenced for “spying.” This announcement caused a public uproar and a demand from U.S. citizens, Congressional leaders and organizations for action to effect their release. (My emphasis.)
The sentenced U.S. “political prisoners,” according to the report, were not the only American servicemen the Chinese held after the Korean War. The New York Times reported that:
Communist China is holding prisoner other United States Air Force personnel who were recently sentenced on spying charges following their capture during the Korean War. This information was brought out of China by Squadron Leader Andrew R. MacKenzie, a Canadian flier who was released today by the Chinese at the Hong Kong border. He reached freedom here two years to the day after he was shot down and fell into Chinese hands in North Korea . . . Held back from the Korean War prisoner exchange, he was released by the Peiping [sic] regime following a period of negotiations through diplomatic channels . . . . Wing Comdr. Donald Skene, his brother-in-law who was sent here from Canada to meet him, said guardedly at a press conference later that an undisclosed number of United States airmen had been in the same camp with Squadron Leader MacKenzie . . . . Wing Commander Skene said none of the Americans in the camp was on the list of eleven whose sentencing was announced by the Chinese November 23, 1954. (My emphasis.)
In its June 19, 2000 issue, Newsweek magazine published an article about American POWs, claiming that “hundreds” may have been kept against their will. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union,” according to Newsweek “the Kremlin’s archives yielded an extraordinary exchange of telegrams among Joseph Stalin, Zhou Enlai [the Chinese Communist foreign minister] and the North Korean strongman Kim Il Sung, father of the current leader. Toward the end of the war, the Chinese suggested that if American prisoners were to be repatriated, ‘at least 20 percent should be held back.’ Mao thought he could use the prisoners as political pawns in support of his efforts to win a U.N. seat and diplomatic recognition from Washington.” (My emphasis.)
Among those who unquestionably had been held back was U.S. Army Corporal Roger Armand Dumas, then age 22. Newsweek wrote: “A POW since November 1950 [when the Chinese poured across the Yalu River], he was brought to a repatriation point along the front line. Then, as other American prisoners were being handed over, eyewitnesses saw two Chinese guards lead Dumas away. There’s been no sign of him since [some forty-seven years later].”
Newsweek continued: “There may have been an even more sinister use for the prisoners. Jan Sejna, a Czech general who defected to the United States in 1968, told Pentagon investigators he had been personally involved in a Soviet project that conducted medical experiments on American prisoners at a secret hospital in North Korea. Testifying before Congress in 1996, Sejna said as many as 100 ‘human guinea pigs’ were later shipped to the Soviet Union for more tests. Others, he said, were killed and cremated in North Korea.” (My emphasis.)
In addition to Sejna’s knowledgeable testimony, considerable anecdotal evidence exists of American military personnel withheld after the Korea War by the North Koreans, Chinese, and Soviets.
For example, in the vicinity of Krasnoyarsk, according to “The Gulag Study,” “A cleaning lady in the camp made a list of 22 names of citizens of the USA who were in the camp . . . during the winter of 1951 to 1952. She was able to take a pencil to the Americans and have them record their names and addresses on pieces of newspaper. She smuggled these pieces out of the camp, put them in a can and buried them. Many names on the list match those of missing service members from the Korean War.” (My emphasis.)
As reported in “The Gulag Study,” the following are several different reports, from different years, from different places, referring to the same specifically identified United States Army officer.
On 15 October 1957, a Polish witness visited the American Consulate in Strasbourg, France. He stated he was held in a prison camp in Bulun until July 1957 and reported seeing the following Americans: Dick Rozbicki, an American soldier captured during the Korean War.
On September 20, 1957, two Polish witnesses visited the American Consulate in Genoa, Italy. Both men claimed to have been WWII POWs held captive in Bulun Camp 217. They reported that two men, who claimed to be American army officers captured during the Korean War, had been transferred to Bulun Camp 217 from another camp on July 24, 1955. The men were: Stanley Rosbicki, approximately 24 years old, of Buffalo, New York and Jack Watson, 38 or 39, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both were infantry lieutenants.
A Catholic priest visited the U.S. Embassy in Paris on July 11, 1958 to report an interview he had recently conducted with a former Polish Gulag prisoner. He claimed to have been acquainted with . . . a lieutenant, Stanley Rosbicki, from New York.
On September 5, 1960, a Polish witness visited the American Embassy, Brussels, Belgium. He stated he had been imprisoned in Bulun Camp 307 for seven and a half years and was released on May 1, 1960. He reported seeing two U.S.Army personnel captured in Korea: Ted Watson, an infantry lieutenant, and Fred Rosbiki, a commando or paratroop sergeant. (My emphasis.)
Although many of us have never entertained any doubt that American POW/MIAs were not repatriated by the Chicoms in 1953, but instead vanished into the oblivion of North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet prison camps and “medical” facilities, a little known Communist intelligence operation during that conflict provides additional proof.
A forty-two page Working Paper of the Joint Commission Support Branch, Research and Analysis Division, DMPM (Defense Prisoner-of-War and Missing Personnel Office of the Pentagon) dated 26 August 1993 contains this Executive Summary:
U.S. Korean War POWs were transferred to the Soviet Union and never repatriated. (Emphasis in original.)
This transfer was a highly secret MGB [KGB] program approved by the inner circle of the Stalinist dictatorship.
The rationale for taking selected prisoners to the USSR was:
To exploit and counter U.S. aircraft technologies;
To use them for general intelligence purposes;
It is possible that Stalin, given his positive experience with Axis [German, Italian, Japanese] POWs, viewed U.S. POWs as potentially lucrative hostages.
The range of eyewitness testimony as to the presence of U.S. Korean War POWs in the GULAG is so broad and convincing that we cannot dismiss it.
The Soviet 64th. Fighter Aviation Corps which supported the North Korean and Chinese forces in the Korean War had an important intelligence collection mission that included the collection, selection and interrogation of POWs.
A General Staff-based analytical group was assigned to the Far East Military district and conducted extensive interrogations of U.S. and other U.N. POWs in Khabarovsk. This was confirmed by a distinguished retired Soviet officer, Colonel Gavriil Korotkov, who participated in this operation. No prisoners were repatriated who related such an experience.
Prisoners were moved by various modes of transportation. Large shipments moved through Manchouli and Pos'yet.
Khabarovsk was the hub of a major interrogation operation directed against U.N. POWs from Korea. Khabarovsk was also a temporary holding and transshipment point for U.S. POWs. The MGB controlled these prisoners, but the GRU [military intelligence] was allowed to interrogate them.
Irkutsk and Novosibirsk were trans-shipment points, but the Komi ASSR and Perm Oblast were the final destinations of many POWs. Other camps where American POWs were held were in the Bashkir ASSR, the Kemerovo and Archangelsk Oblasts, and the Komi-Permyatskiy and Taymyskiy National Okrugs.
POW transfers also included thousands of South Koreans, a fact confirmed by the Soviet general officer, Kan San Kho, who served as the Deputy Chief of the North Korean MVD.
The most highly-sought-after POWs for exploitation were F-86 pilots and others knowledgeable of new technologies.
Living U.S. witnesses have testified that captured U.S. pilots were, on occasion, taken directly to Soviet-staffed interrogation centers. A former Chinese officer stated that he turned U.S. pilot POWs directly over to the Soviets as a matter of policy.
Missing F-86 pilots, whose captivity was never acknowledged by the Communists in Korea, were identified in recent interviews with former Soviet intelligence officers who served in Korea. Captured F-86 aircraft were taken to at least three Moscow aircraft design bureaus for exploitation. Pilots accompanied the aircraft to enrich and accelerate the exploitation process. (My emphasis.)
Why, one may ask, why were the Soviets so interested in the F-86?
The Working Paper provides the answer:
The First Modern Air War. One of the worst-kept secrets of the Cold War was the head-to-head clash in Korea between the two former Allies of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States. * ** The Korean War was the first modern air war and was characterized by an entirely new technology that was electronics intensive and depended not only on the keen wits and high mastery of the pilots flying the jet combat aircraft but on a host of advanced support activities such as air-intercept radar and airborne reconnaissance.
The Technology Gap. This was the backdrop for an even more insidious form of warfare. The Soviet Union cloaked its participation in the Korean War partly to conceal its urgent need to bridge the technological gap with the West, which was widening geometrically even then. Based upon a precedent repeatedly acknowledged by senior Soviet officers, which began with the wholesale reverse engineering of the Massey-Ferguson tractor by the State Automobile Factory in the 1930s, the Willys Jeep in the 1940s, and a variety of propeller technology aircraft during World War II, the Soviets sought to avert the inevitable by systemized theft of design.
* * *
The air-focused Soviet priorities are perhaps best summed up by the comment of retired Colonel Aleksandr Semyonovich Orlov, a veteran of the 64th [Soviet Fighter Aviation Corps], and the chief . . . of intelligence for one of its divisions. He casually dismissed the significance of ground forces personnel with the comment that he knew more about the operations of the American infantry battalion that a U. S. Army captain would. Orlov, himself a captain at the time of the Korean War, then described in painstaking details Soviet intelligence collection requirements which were focused on aircraft technical parameters.
* * *
A Special Air Force Unit. According to Dr. Paul Cole's interview with General Lobov, a special Soviet Air Force unit was organized and deployed, under the command of General Blagoveshchenskii, with the mission to capture F-86 pilots. Its mission was to force down Sabre jets in order to capture the pilots alive. The unit was composed of flyers from units in Mary, in the Turkmen SSR, and from the Primorskii Krai along the Pacific coast. Nine expert pilots were assigned to this mission, each of whom was required to sign a secrecy statement.
In light of the F-86 project alone, it is unarguable that American POW/MIAs were shipped to China, either as the end destination itself, or in trans-shipment to other Communist countries, especially the Soviet Union.
Indeed, General Mark W. Clark, Commander of U.N. forces during the final stages of the Korean War, was quoted in 1954 as stating categorically that “we had solid evidence” that POW/MIAs were withheld by the Chinese and North Koreans when the armistice was signed.
Besides Clark, countless American officials knew that many of our POW/MIAs had been shipped through China to the Soviet Union. For example, a March 16, 1954 report from our Air Liaison Office in Hong Kong to the U.S. Air Force G2 in Washington stated that:
This office has interviewed refugee source who states he observed hundreds of prisoners of war in American uniforms being sent into Siberia in late 1951 and 1952. Observations were made at Manchouli (Lupin), 49 degrees 50'-117 degrees 30' Manchuria Road Map, AMSL 201 First Edition, on USSR-Manchurian border. Source observed POWs on railway station platform loading into trains for movement into Siberia. In railway restaurant source closely observed three POWs who were under guard and were conversing in English. POWs wore sleeve insignia which indicated POWs were Air Force noncommissioned officers. Source states that there were a great number of Negroes among POW shipments and also states that at no time later were any POWs observed returning from Siberia. Source does not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals against friends in Manchuria, however is willing to cooperate in answering further questions and will be available Hong Kong for questioning for the next four days.
Upon receipt of this information, USAF, Washington, requested elaboration of the following points:
1. Description of uniforms or clothing worn by POWs including ornaments.
2. Physical condition of POWs.
3. Nationality of guards.
4. Specific dates of observations.
5. Destination in Siberia.
6. Presence of Russians in uniform or civilian clothing accompanying movement of POWs.
7. Complete description of three POWs specifically mentioned.
The Air Liaison Office complied by submitting the telegram quoted below.
FROM USAIRLOSGN LACKEY. CITEC4. REUR 53737 following answers submitted to seven questions.
(1) POWs wore OD outer clothing described as not heavy inasmuch as weather considered early spring. Source identified from pictures service jacket, field, M1943. No belongings except canteen. No ornaments observed.
(2) Condition appeared good, no wounded all ambulatory.
(3) Station divided into two sections with tracks on each side of loading platform. On Chinese side POWs accompanied by Chinese guards. POWs passed through gate bisecting platform to Russian train manned and operated by Russians. Russian trainmen wore dark blue or black tunic with silver colored shoulder boards. Source says this regular train uniform but he knows the trainmen are military wearing regular train uniforms.
(4) Interrogation with aid of more fluent interpreter reveals source first observed POWs in railroad station in spring 1951. Second observation was outside city of Manchouli about three months later with POW train headed towards station where he observed POW transfer. Source was impressed with second observation because of large number of Negroes among POWs. Source states job was numbering railroad cars at Manchouli every time subsequent POW shipments passed through Manchouli. Source says these shipments were reported often and occurred when United Nation forces in Korea were on the offensive.
(6) Only Russian accompanying POWs were those who manned train.
(7) Three POWs observed in Station restaurant appeared to be 30 or 35. Source identified Air Force non-commissioned officer sleeve insignia of Staff Sergeant rank, stated that several inches above insignia there was a propeller but says that all three did not have propeller. Three POWs accompanied by Chinese guard. POWs appeared thin but in good health and spirits, were being given what source described as good food. POWs were talking in English but did not converse with guard. Further information as to number of POWs observed source states that first observation filled a seven passenger car train and second observation about the same. Source continues to emphasize the number of Negro troops, which evidently impressed him because he had seen so few Negroes before.
Comment Reporting Officer: Source is very careful not to exaggerate information and is positive of identification of American POWs. In view of information contained in Charity Interrogation Report No.619 dated 5 February 54, Reporting Officer gives above information rating of F-2. Source departing Hong Kong today by ship. Future address on file this office.
Years later, authors Rochester and Kiley would write in Honor Bound, American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia 1961-1973, that “[a]s late as 1970, U.S. representatives would still be lamenting the lack of Chinese cooperation in resolving the cases of some 389 missing Americans whose fate remained uncertain [approximately] 20 years after the Korean armistice.”
Yet, despite all this and substantially more intelligence information that American POW/MIAs were held in, and transshipped from, China, for more than half a century the Chinese Communists denied, denied, denied.
They no longer have to deny, deny, deny.Because, apparently, for a long time no one has asked the Chinese -- or the North Koreans, Russians, Vietnamese -- or others who held American Prisoners of War, what happened to them.
"Missing in Action" should never be the final word about any American Prisoner of War.
The Secretary of State should ask the Chinese Communists and their Vietnamese comrades.
At the next cocktail party!